Taste of Memory (cont)

He made a sound that felt frustrated and put me back on the couch. I curled around my ache and my weakness and stared at the wall. He paced away.

'So the son of a bitch is a vamp,' I said, getting back on track. 'What the fuck would he want with a pack of 'shifters?'

'I don't really know what his game is,' Heero said, sounding oddly far away for all the ten feet of distance there was between us. 'He just likes to... play with us. With 'shifters.'

'Play?' I snarled, looking away from the wall and only finding Heero's back. 'Play?!'

'It's all about his damn amusement,' he replied, voice bitter and angry. 'I think there's some reason he hates us... them, but he loves nothing more than to fuck with a pack. Fuck with families. Destroy... lives.'

'He... he screwed up my family because he's... bored?' I asked, wanting to sound angry and knowing I only sounded incredulous.

Heero turned and looked at me, his expression not able to maintain the anger any more than mine. 'I don't know, Duo,' he told me, doing that trick where his voice sounded like it was right next to my ear. 'I don't know any more of the why than you do. He took everything from me. My... everything, and left me nothing but this... existence.'

Is it totally screwed up that I wanted to go put my arms around the guy? As much as I hated Chang, as much as I'd lost it all too... at least I could still walk in the sunshine. At least I wasn't... you know... dead.

'Heero...' I breathed, feeling so damn bad for him and not really understanding why. He was a vampire, I had to keep reminding myself, he didn't have drinks with people over lunch... he drank people for lunch.

I watched him close his eyes when I said his name, like I'd struck him, and I just shut up.

'I have to go,' he said then, and all that emotion he'd been showing me was back in some sort of box inside of him. I blinked at him in some confusion, knowing that dawn was still some time off. 'I... must hunt,' he said after a long moment, by way of explanation, and turned away... just like that.

'Am I in any danger from you?' I had to ask, and it made him stop.

'Not from me,' he said near my ear. 'Never from me. But stay hidden here... Chang won't be happy that we spoiled his game.'

And then he was gone, leaving me with a whole hell of a lot to think about, more questions than I'd gotten answers for, and a growing ache in my belly that made me wish Heero had a better memory for the niceties of the living.

Despite all that, I slept again... it might have just been talking, but it had worn me out all the same. Kind of drew to my attention just how pathetically bad my condition was.

When I woke next, I knew it was daylight and from the scent, nearing noon. My poor stomach's grumbling had roused me, finally getting too bad to ignore. I was irritated with my attendant vampire for a bit, until I really stopped to think about the absurdity of expecting a member of the life-challenged to hand deliver my meals. What would you call that, 'Vamps on Wheels'? 'Meals by Night'?

Though I was more than pleased that I actually still had a stomach and a bladder, they were both conspiring to make me get the hell up and fend for myself.

It made me wonder where in the hell I was. Made me wonder how close I was to some source of food. Made me wonder if clothes were a possibility, because I don't care what you see in the movies... when I guy changes into a wolf and back again... the clothes get abandoned. Kangaroos have pouches. Possums do. Wolves do not.

I must have been healing or I don't think my brain would be engaging as much as it seemed to be. Not that I wasn't pleased by the fact, but I suppose there had been a strange kind of... peace in not really being able to think.

Because there was a whole lot to think about there. From the smirk on Chang Wufei's face, to Solo's dying scream.

A lot to wonder about too. Like what had befallen my family now that Solo was gone. Was Chang leading the pack? Or was there still a pack to lead?

We won't talk about the part where I had apparently thrown my lot in with a vampire and how fucked up it was that I seemed to trust him. No... we won't be wondering about that.

I'm not sure if it was the hunger or the thinking that finally drove me to it, but I decided that afternoon to take a stroll.

Ok, more like a stagger, but to be honest, I was kind of pleased with even that much. Pleased that I could manage more than crawling the length of the room. Pleased that the spots before my eyes weren't so bad that I couldn't navigate around them. We don't really have to talk about the part where I was hanging off the walls just to make my way out the door.

I appeared to be in some sort of abandoned building. Below ground, no less. There was a hall and some stairs and when I crept up them, there was a room decorated in early train wreck, though oddly devoid of anything that fell into the realm of the living. No rats, no squatters, no bugs to speak of. I wondered if the vampire had done something somehow. It was very disconcerting; I felt like I shouldn't so much as breathe too loud. There was definitely something in the air that made me twitchy.

Unfortunately, there was nothing that would even begin to constitute clothing. I might have managed a loin cloth if I'd had something to cut the cover off a battered, destroyed old chair. But I didn't have any scissors, and I wasn't desperate enough to wear a blue floral loin cloth anyway. Especially not stained with I didn't want to know what. I do have some fashion sense.

But I could smell things in the air that were making my mouth water and it was going to be hours and hours before Heero could come back, with no guarantee that he'd remember to feed me when he did.

Not knowing what else to do... I shifted. And then I had to take a little rest. It was more than frightening how my energy reserves were more like... unreserved. I was just grateful it was still early afternoon when I was able to walk again.

The wonderful thing about the modern human is that they don't question what they see. I could walk the streets right out in the open and my biggest danger was the dog catcher. People looked right at me and saw dog, not wolf. Because wolves do not live in cities. Or even in this part of the country. If it can not logically be so... man will find a reasonable explanation for it.

I appeared to be in a not great neighborhood, but not the worst I'd ever seen. I took a moment to mark the side of the building I'd come out of, just to make absolutely sure I could find my way back, and then I made my way down a grungy alley, following the scent of the tantalizing thing that was calling my name. Or at least, calling my stomach.

I kept to cover in the mouth of the alley while I surveyed the street and didn't find anything overly alarming. No gangs of bored looking kids. No stray dogs that might react badly to my scent. Nobody in a uniform who might decide to object to my lack of owner.

I ventured onto the street, and when nobody screamed and pointed, was encouraged to continue. I was very careful to go slowly, conserving my strength as much as possible and hoping I wouldn't have to go too far. Had I the vocal cords for it in that form, I would have cursed Heero in all the languages I spoke, for being such an absentminded asshole. I would have much preferred to stay holed up in the dark where I could lick my wounds in private. But I was never going to heal on the starvation rations I was being supplied with; I needed food and I needed it now, not in a couple of days when it was convenient for Heero.

The smell ended up being a street vender who didn't seem to be doing a lot of vending. I wondered about the woman's choice of locations, but realized she wasn't all that far from a construction site and maybe she did better business at the regular meal hours. She was perched on a stool beside her cart reading a battered looking paperback book, but noticed me pretty quickly. I guess a 'dog' my size is kinda hard to miss.

She looked wary, not overly scared, which was a decent start, but not like she was interested in adopting me and taking me home either.

I moved a bit closer and she stood, setting her book aside, glancing around to see, I think, if there was anyone close who might help her if I turned out to be a not nice doggy. I whimpered and wagged my tail.

Hey... I'm not stupid; I've freakin' seen Lassie.

She stopped looking around, but still didn't look like she thought I was just the cutest thing, so I bumped up the suck-up job; sitting down and raising one paw in that universal hand-shake gesture. She blinked. 'Well you sure belonged to somebody once upon a time, didn't you?' she muttered and I knew I had her.

I did the tongue loll thing. Then I did the waggle all over and stick the butt in the air thing.

Hey... I was fucking starving to death, ok? I was utterly shameless and I don't give a damn. I've learned to fend for myself. By the time I was done with my cute puppy act, the woman was feeding me hotdogs right from her fingers and I was leaning against her leg looking up with adoring eyes. If I'd had more time or the desire to do so, I'm willing to bet money I could have ended up going home with the woman.

She even scratched me behind my ear and called me a 'good boy'. I almost felt bad for playing her so unrepentantly just for a meal.

Though I got to make up for it right after I ate my fifth hot dog, when some geezer with a brown bagged bottle, and wearing a trench coat, came up to the cart and made a rather rude comment about things that could be done with hotdogs. Kind of made me lose my appetite for the things. The vender lady told him to fuck off. He told her he'd be delighted. She told him to go to hell and he made a grab for her arm.

That was where I stepped in and growled. One of those deep-throated rumbly ones that makes you sound like you're about the size of a Mack truck. I've practiced it. It had the desired effect and the guy let go. I was really damn relieved, because I couldn't have managed anything else if he'd decided to be pissy and push the point.

He eyed me nervously and then took a swig from his bottle before moving off, muttering about dogs and hotdogs and bitchy women the whole way.

Got me another hotdog and a more vigorous scratch. And I was informed that I was a very good boy.

I left not long after that. There wasn't any protest from the vender lady, but then I suppose she maybe figured out how much it would cost to feed a beast like me. Though I had hopes that if it became necessary, I might be able to beg another meal from her another day.

I was flagging miserably, but I wasn't that interested in going straight back to my bolt hole, just on the off chance that anybody was paying attention, so I made my unobtrusive way around the block to come at the alley from the other direction. Well... as unobtrusive as you can get when you're a two hundred pound wolf.

By the time I made the doorway of 'my' building again, I was practically staggering. I'd have looked like a drunk if I hadn't been on four feet. I suppose I probably just looked diseased. Thankfully, there was nobody around to see me.

I ended up lying in the doorway at the top of the basement stairs, too damn done in to dare them. I remember thinking that I should probably shift back to human form, and then I went to sleep.

There is something very disconcerting about being touched and held by hands that are... slightly less than your average body temperature.

I did indeed wake in human form, and in retrospect, decided that I should have stayed as I was... wolves have a better ability to sleep on stupid shit and not wake up feeling like a pretzel. I also woke up being hauled into the lap of a vampire. A very... upset vampire.

'Oh God... not again,' Heero was murmuring, cradling my head against his shoulder and his hands stroking over my hair. 'Please, not again. Duo... wake up... please wake up...'

Very damn fucking freaky to feel a vampire tremble. I had not known it was possible. It made me kind of want to get up and go sit quietly someplace else. Made me kind of want to wrap him up tight in my arms and comfort him. Made me long for a beer and an aspirin. Made me wonder why it felt like the deep hours of the morning. Made me wonder where he'd been and that almost made me laugh.

How quickly I'd come to expect him to be around.

'I'm ok,' I told him, finding my voice after a minute and he stilled his strange rocking and looked at me.

'Duo?' he questioned, for all the world like he'd really thought I was dead and that fact mattered to him somehow. 'What... what happened? Are you hurt?'

'I uh... got hungry,' I confessed, and tried to move away. I didn't get far.

He rose easily with me in his arms and took us down the stairs as though he were afraid someone might see us. 'Hungry?' he said, almost to himself. 'I'm such a damn fool...'

I snorted. 'Well... you don't seem to be real up on the care and feeding of your average shape-shifter.'

I didn't get the chuckle, so I subsided while he took us down the stairs, back into the room at the bottom. I hadn't a damn clue what his deal was, and decided that I wasn't likely to figure it out. I was relieved when he actually put me back on the couch. But then he perched beside me, looking... like he couldn't figure out what to say to me first.

He finally settled on, 'You... went out like this?'

I couldn't resist grinning. 'I took my hair down... did the Lady Godiva thing.'

He looked kind of horrified for a moment and I laughed right out loud. A prudish vampire... who would have thought?

'I went out in the guise of a poor, stray doggie,' I confessed, because funny as the look on his face was, it was also oddly disconcerting. It was suddenly making me very aware of my state of undress. 'Shifters in general are just not all that body-shy; clothes are just a pain in the butt unless we're spending much time in the human world. But there was something about the way he suddenly seemed to be aware of it, when he hadn't before... that was making me uncomfortable.

'You could have been seen...' he began, frowning at me and not so much as cracking a smile at my jokes.

I snorted. 'I was sure to be under-cover before nightfall, man... relax.'

His frown just deepened. 'Not all of Chang's allies are limited to the darkness, Duo. It isn't safe for you here now.'

It made me feel defensive. Made me feel like I'd done something stupid, when he was the one who kept forgetting I was just a poor, average, run of the mill shape-shifter who'd had his ass handed to him on an ornate silver platter. 'Well if I hadn't needed to go find some fucking food...' I growled and was surprised when he ducked his head.

'I know,' he said, sounding honestly pained. 'I'm sorry... it's just been so damn long since I had to think of these things. So long since...' he let that trail off, but looked up at me again. 'It doesn't matter now, but I need to get you out of here. We can't trust that this is still a secure place.'

'Well I'm going to need some clothes then,' I informed him. 'I can't go much of anywhere like this.'

It made him struggle not to rake his eyes over me; I could see it in the way he wouldn't look away from my eyes. 'Can't you... shift again?' he asked, and I wondered about the hopeful tone.

It was my turn to duck my head, unable to meet that intense gaze. 'I... don't have the strength. You'll just end up carrying a wolf out of here instead of a naked man.'

'We may have to chance it, be...' he said, stumbling over his words for some reason. 'I'm... afraid to leave you here alone. We can't risk that this place has been compromised.'

'I'm sorry,' I grumbled, feeling pretty damn lame about the shape I was in. That I wasn't pulling my own weight. That I was even having to rely on him to begin with.

And yeah... a little bit confused about the easy way he fell into all that 'we' stuff.

'Don't be,' he soothed, that weird thread of... hunger, back in his voice. 'Nothing was ever your fault. You need the time to rest and heal... and we don't have it.'

I didn't have an answer and we just ended up staring at each other. I saw him open his mouth to speak, but was surprised when he didn't. He had that frustrated look again.

'What the hell is it?' I finally prodded, not liking that he was obviously keeping something from me that might end up being important.

He hesitated, looking at me in that way that made me wish my hair really was down so I had it to hide behind. 'There's something...' he began, obviously hesitant, and just as obviously hopeful. 'Something I could do that would... speed the healing process.'

I eyed him suspiciously and had to fight the urge to move away from him. Nowhere I had to go anyway, I was already leaning against the arm of the dilapidated old couch. 'What?' I finally asked, knowing I wasn't going to like it.

It struck me again that eyes that damned beautiful should not belong to a vampire, nor should a look as imploring as the one he gave me then. 'If you will... if you would drink of my blood...' he began, and I'm afraid I didn't even have to voice my... distaste. He saw it on my face and just shut up.

I shuddered and did find myself pressing against the couch, unconsciously trying to move away. 'The hell...?' Was all I managed.

He lost the hopeful look and moved to give me a bit of space, reacting to my reaction, I suppose. He stalked a couple of feet away and stood in silence for a minute, before running a hand over his face and trying again. 'It won't harm you. I'm not... contagious or anything. But there are properties in... in me that would help you regain your strength.'

I noted his avoidance of the word, 'blood' this time and wasn't sure whether to give him points for sensitivity or not. 'But, there would be... consequences?'

He sighed, sounding resigned. Sounding as though he'd known all along that I wouldn't agree. Though, he got points for asking... didn't he? 'There would be... some other affects, yes.'

'Forget it, buddy,' I snapped. 'I just need some time. I'll heal the normal way.'

There was a sigh of frustration and he turned to look at me. 'I don't know that we have that kind of time.'

I narrowed my eyes, wanting to balk at that 'we' crap, but having to admit if only to myself, that I'd been relying on him just a little too much. Maybe it was time to do something about that. 'Look... I have my own damn place. It's not much, but I can just freakin' go there if you'd get me some damn clothes.'

'No!' he snapped, not quite shouting, but then quickly backed down, seeming to understand that commanding me was the wrong tact to take. 'Please... I can't keep you safe there. I can't risk...'

I was getting a little tired of his weird... assumptions. His damned implications. 'I'm not yours to risk,' I said, annoyed that it came out almost gentle instead of the firm declaration I had meant to make. I was more than surprised by the pain that flared in his eyes.

'I... suppose not,' he whispered, the sound much closer than he.

Then we stared at each other for a long couple of minutes. I don't know what he was thinking about, but I was just trying to get my head around the whole bizarreness of him treating me like... like there was something between us.

'None the less,' he finally said, breaking and looking away first. 'It wouldn't be wise for you to stay here.'

'I'm open to suggestions,' I replied, tired of fighting his paranoia over it. Hell, maybe the new place would have a real bed instead of a beat-up old couch. Or even a bathroom.

'It's dark,' he said, coming back toward me. 'I'll carry you. We'll find something...'

I snorted and rolled my eyes. 'Oh yeah... that's going to be real discreet. Just go get me some damn clothes and...'

'I won't leave you,' he insisted. 'If anyone saw you...'

'Then they saw a stray damn dog!' I snapped. 'I didn't go out and post a sign that said, 'this way to the bat cave', for God's sake!'

'No,' he growled. 'You just marked the God forsaken place with werewolf piss!'

I blinked at him for a second, and only managed a quiet little, 'Oh yeah.'

Oddly, it made him choke on a snicker and his irritation seemed to fade away. The look he gave me was... fond, and he started to say something, but thought better of it. 'Please Duo, I know you think I'm over-reacting, but you don't know Chang the way I do. He won't rest until he has his revenge on us for spoiling his plans. I found a place that's more secure than this and we need to get out of here.'

I decided the stinking hell with it and gave in with a heavy sigh. 'Ok... ok... I give. Whatever you think is best.' I think for a moment he thought I was giving in on his weird-ass blood-sucking notion, and I wasn't entirely prepared for the look that came into his eyes, so I quickly amended, 'we'll go wherever you say.'

He couldn't quite cover the disappointment, but didn't speak of it, just came and caught me up in his arms again like I was a child. Understanding that I might be in that position for a while, I facilitated him as best I could by wrapping my arms around his neck. It somehow suddenly made it... weird. His shoulders were... strong.

Not to belabor a point, but somebody that damn hot should really not be dead.

I swallowed, and I'd be willing to bet you could have heard it in the next room. We stared at each other and Heero whispered, 'I've got you,' so softly I felt it as much as heard it.

I had this horribly expectant notion that he might be thinking about kissing me, when the moment was shattered in the worst possible way.

'Oh, this is just too delicious for words,' Chang Wufei said, his tone that insufferable cultured one. The one that made me want to rip his throat out.

Heero actually... snarled. I found myself clutched against him so tightly I despaired of breathing, and he retreated a half dozen steps, putting the couch, the only thing in the room, between us and the figure we suddenly found standing in the doorway.

There was a chuckle and I felt those dark eyes taking everything in. 'Not looking so good, Maxwell,' he informed me, the smirk there to hear. 'Your boyfriend doesn't seem to be taking very good care of you.'

I didn't bother to respond, just keeping my eyes on him and wondering if he was alone. There didn't seem to be anyone with him, but then I supposed if he were still with the pack by some chance, he wouldn't risk bringing them where they might find out what he really was. Heero didn't speak either, his attention focused on Chang the way a hawk watches something it's unsure of.

'So remiss, dear Heero,' Chang chided, taking a step into the room. 'To leave him like this. But then... I suppose he probably hasn't been too receptive to your... advances, has he?'

Heero almost unconsciously retreated another step, maintaining the distance between us. He was so tense, I might have been in the arms of a stone statue. 'I will kill you,' he said, voice so damn cold, I shivered.

Chang chuckled and took a step to the side, moving so he wasn't silhouetted in the doorway any more. 'I think not,' he purred, inclining his head at me. 'Your oh so vaunted ethics have left him helpless. You have too much to protect, pupil.' Then he laughed. 'There will be death here tonight... but it won't be mine.'

Heero growled deep in his chest, staring at our 'guest' as though he could destroy him with just his gaze. I was about to become a huge encumbrance, and we both seemed to realize that at the same moment, because Heero eased the hold he had on my legs, putting me on my feet. Not that I was steady, but at least if he had to let go, he wasn't going to be dumping me on my ass.

Chang chuckled again. 'Oh, he's in bad shape, isn't he Heero? How tragic.'

'Shut the fuck up, you bastard,' Heero snapped, and pulled me in tighter to his side. Despite all his bluster and snapping, I could tell he was scared. Damn scared.

'You won't be able to protect him you know,' Chang said conversationally. 'Just like last time. This has worked out just too perfect for words.'

Heero couldn't seem to help pulling me in next to him as close as he could manage, though we both knew he was going to have to let me go completely to fight. He didn't speak, just watching the other vamp intently. I was surprised to find myself almost clinging to him.

'Oh how sad,' Chang sneered mockingly. 'He turns unconsciously to you for shelter but... he doesn't trust you, does he?' There was that dark laugh again, that made my blood boil. 'I saw to that, dear Heero. He remembers enough to know to fear our kind.'

I thought Heero would actually spit on the damn ground. 'I am not of your kind,' he snarled and only got laughed at again.

'I'm afraid you are, my pet,' Chang said, all breathy and smug. 'I saw to that too. You didn't stand a chance then... and you don't stand a chance now.'

I'm not at all sure what made me do what I did then. Heero had me so wrapped up in his arms, pressed against him and his hands holding my head as though he could spare me the sight of death hovering over us. When he told Chang, again, 'I will kill you,' I knew the entertainment portion of our show was waning. My face was against Heero's chest, My hands fisted in his shirt, his hands trying to cover me...

There was this sudden feeling of... this is it. Our hatred for the vampire across the room would not save us. We were about to die. I didn't understand the banter, I didn't understand the history, but I did understand death when it stared me in the face.

Before I could think about what I was doing, I slid a hand up Heero's chest and under the guise of holding on to him; I raked him with a nail.

I was a little surprised to find that vampires bleed pretty much like anybody else. I'm not sure what I expected... for smoke to rise? For the blood to be thick and coagulated? For it to be some odd color? I don't know, but I made myself lick at the scratch before I had a chance to ask myself what in the hell I thought I was doing.

Heero's only reaction was to stroke a hand over the side of my face, helping me to hide what I was doing. It gave me hope that I wasn't going to need a pint of his damn blood to work whatever magic he had offered me.

Somewhere in there I spared a brain cell to offer up a tiny little prayer that I wasn't going to regret the whole damn thing. But I was pretty sure if I didn't do something I wasn't going to live long enough to regret much of anything. Maybe Heero scared me... but that didn't hold a candle to the hatred I felt for the monster across the room.

I suckled carefully at the little scratch on Heero's skin and was just starting to wonder what to expect when... I thought my blood was catching fire.

There had been another few verbal barbs thrown, and I'd missed most of them, but I caught the tone in Chang's voice that told me we weren't amusing him any longer. Heero kissed my brow, telling me I'd drunk enough, and then he let me go, let me slid down to the ground behind the couch. He was moving away; moving to close with Chang, but his voice was a caress against my ear. 'Run. I'll keep him back as long as I can, just... run.'

And then I really don't know what the fuck happened. There were some shouts, the sounds of a fight, some more taunts on both sides, but I was sort of busy trying to decide if I was going to catch on fire or not.

Guess I was about to learn what 'other affects' Heero'd been talking about.

Something, somewhere around my heart seemed to be heating up and spreading through me like fire running over a spider's web. I could feel every vein, every artery as whatever in the hell I had done mapped it in fire. I think I might have moaned, though I tried to keep quiet. Tried to make sure that Chang didn't have a clue what I'd done. Pathetic as it probably seemed at that point, while I panted and trembled... I was sort of thinking of me as our ace in the hole.

Of course, when that whole 'two against one' plan had erupted in my head, I hadn't counted on the cure leaving me writhing on the floor.

And then the fire hit my brain and... the whole world got turned upside down.

There was a spider in my head, fleeing the flames that licked his web, and he ran through my mind, throwing open the doors that had left me blind...

What the hell?

What the bleeding, bloody, fucking damn hell?

Memories came out of those doors and I remembered things that had never happened. I knew things I couldn't. I understood my fear... understood Heero's hate... understood why Chang Wufei had to die.

It was piecemeal and disjointed and I wondered if I would ever be able to sort it all out. Things came flying at me faster than I could assimilate. Faster than I could react.

I saw Heero in his wolf form, all chocolate and smoke and power. Had he ever gone against Solo, I had no doubt he'd have won.

I knew how it felt to have his human form pressed against my back.

I could hear his voice whispering soft words to me of sunshine and forever, but then I heard his voice telling me to run.

I knew just what he tasted like; his skin, his lips, his essence. Knew the bitter and the sweet and remembered how it could always overwhelm me.

His scent filled me up, making me think of old forests and jasmine, though I knew that wasn't how he smelled now, and that seemed a horrible tragedy.

Seemed... a... horrible...

And I remembered when he died. I remembered because I had died too. Only I... I had stayed dead. Only I hadn't... but...

I saw Chang Wufei draining my lover, knew what he was doing to him, but I wasn't able to stop him, because I'd been... not altogether whole.

I could see the grief in Heero's eyes as he watched me slowly fade, as he felt himself slowly fade... but we'd each gone in different ways. I to my grave, Heero to an existence he had to have hated with every ounce of his soul.

And all the while, there was that bastard Chang's face with that so amused smile. That damned... that infuriating... that soulless bastard smile.

And he was doing it again. That was what brought me back out of my head and made me remember where I was. The sound of Chang Wufei laughing that laugh that had chased me into oblivion.

'Looks like you lose again, my sweet Heero,' I heard him say. 'It took you so long to find him... so very long. Shall I kill him again? Let you chase him through another dozen generations? Or should I kill you this time and see if he'll hunt you?'

'Run,' Heero's voice echoed in my head, then and now and all through my soul. 'Run... hide...'

But I was done with that. I still wasn't sure just what the fuck was going on... but I'd be damned if I ran again.

I pushed to my feet, and let the fire do as it would, there were still things flashing behind my eyes, but I didn't have the time to watch anymore. Didn't have the time to understand. The only thing that needed understanding was that the nightmare of my life... lives... of forever, had my Heero on the ground and was about to win. Again. And I would not have it.

There was strength in my legs and strength in my arms and I used it, used what Heero had given me... what I had taken from him, and I leapt silent as I could be across the room and flung myself on Chang Wufei's back.

Battle cries are for idiots. You don't warn the enemy you're coming. Especially not if the enemy out-classes you six ways to Sunday. I was pleased that I took them both by surprise. Chang hissed in irritation and Heero cried out, I could hear it now... and understand it... in terror.

He had thought he was buying my escape with his life. My attacking an older than Methuselah vampire had not been in his game plan.

But I had my own damn plan.

Chang stood up, trying to throw me off, but I'm nothing if not tenacious. He'd have better luck getting a tick off his ass. I rode him like you ride those damn bar-room mechanical bulls, while he clawed and twisted and pulled at me.

But... I had this strength like I'd never felt before and I knew he wasn't going to manage to get free any time soon. His irritation gave way to real anger and he began to smash me against the wall, snarling like an insane thing and cursing me in languages even I didn't know.

I thought Heero was never going to get his shit together.

When he came after us to try and help, he was staggering hard and I was surprised that a thread of fear got past my hatred. I was still trying to get my head around the fact that I was looking at my lover. It was harder to look at him and see the damage Chang had done, knowing that. It was harder... while it only fueled the fire in my veins.

Heero latched onto one of Chang's arms, trying to keep the vamp from tearing at me, with his weight added to mine, I let go with my legs, daring to find purchase on the ground to take control of our twisted little dance.

'We have to drive him out of here!' I screamed, and though Heero looked confused, he didn't argue with me. Chang stopped trying to rip me free long enough to make a grab for Heero and almost succeeded.

Chang was... strong. Damn strong. And I knew if he got free of me, we were dead. I'd managed by luck to get him in the only hold that I stood a chance of maintaining, and I was determined to endure his clawing, determined to endure whatever I had to, to keep that advantage.

Heero wasn't in the best shape, and I didn't know how long my own borrowed strength was going to last. I hadn't been given the opportunity to read the game rules.

I part-shifted, and snapped my jaws tight on the back of Chang's neck, praying to those Gods who usually didn't listen to me, that tasting his blood wasn't going to do something to me that would turn out to be a Big Mistake.

He screamed, and for the first time there was a hint of fear in it. I wanted to laugh with that tiny victory. If nothing else, if we lost the damn fight in the end, at least I'd finally managed to wipe that damn smugness out of the asshole.

Heero lunged back in and helped me go where I wanted. God knows what he thought... maybe he'd figured it out. Maybe he just trusted me. Maybe he was so far gone he was just doing what I told him. I don't know, but we were working together and our blood waltz was taking us toward the door where I wanted to go.

Chang didn't get it until we were there. Had been too wrapped up in his petty entertainment to notice. Neither of them had scented or sensed or remembered what I had finally smelled.

Dawn.

I don't know shit much about vampires, but I do know that.

He howled like a banshee when he figured it out and began to fight us like a mad man. I thought I was going to lose him, but my jaws were grinding on bone and Heero was helping me and then we were crashing through the door and it was my show because I lost Heero in the doorway. He stopped at the edge of shadow and our eyes locked and I knew that he'd come after us right the fuck into the sun if he had to, to save me, and I found that extra bit of strength and made sure he didn't have to.

One shot I had here; two tiny bits of surprise might mate into victory if I could just hang the hell on, and I was hell-bent on not letting go.

It wasn't one of those ethereal, glowing pools of light... not like in the movies. But the sun was there, spilling through broken windows and broken boards, spattering its way down the stairs and I took us into that place where the dust danced in the sun...

And the vampire in my grasp began to... shriek.

Is it horribly stupid to confess that that was the place where I almost lost the fight? Because I'd never heard anything scream in pain quite like that, and I almost let him go. Almost had to stop that kind of suffering. Almost... felt sorry for him.

Almost.

But I could still see Heero's eyes, glowing like fire at the edge of the light, watching me for any hint that I needed him, poised to throw himself into the inferno for me, and I wouldn't let go. No matter how the screaming... thing in my jaws twisted and fought and clawed at me. No matter the pain, no matter the horror of it, no matter the stench of... of burning undead.

It took... a while. Nothing in this damn situation had worked like it does in the movies. Made me wonder about the writers; didn't they know there were sources out there they could ask about details like that? Well... maybe not, and maybe that was just as well.

There was no strength left in the end, for him to fight me, and I opened my jaws before I choked on the ash and the smell. I don't know why it didn't really burn me, but it ended with me sprawled on the steps like a puppet with my strings cut, Chang Wufei on top of me, slowly turning to ash, with the sun shining merrily down on us... as innocent as the rain. Innocent as a pup.

And maybe I'm crazy, maybe the exhaustion was finally getting to me, but at the very end, when there wasn't enough left to scream... I'd swear there was a moment when the monster in my arms was gone and all that was left was the man.

'Thank you,' I thought I heard whispered in my ear, but it wasn't a voice I knew and it might have just been the wind.

Then there was nothing but ashes, skirling up the stairwell in the early morning breeze.

It was... over. And I still hadn't quite gotten the part where 'it' was a thing that had spanned generations. I closed my eyes, all of Heero's borrowed strength leaving me, and just lay in the sunshine.

'Duo?' he called out, voice tight and scared. 'Please... come down here to me. I can't... can't come up there. Please beloved...'

'God,' I groaned. 'Always so damn pushy. Gimme a minute, will you?'

He laughed at the sound of my voice and it was how it wound up until it was bordering on hysteria that made me slither my tired ass back down the steps to him. He barely waited until I'd crossed into shadow before he snatched me up and staggered away from the door with me to the darkest corner of our basement room. To a place where the sun couldn't reach no matter the time of day.

Once there, we just curled around each other and rested, too battered and torn to care about anything There was too much to think about, much less talk about. I was still trying to mate the past with the present. Was still trying to reconcile knowing that I'd been with this man in intimate ways that made a mockery of anything I'd ever shared with Solo. Still having moments of bizarre double vision where I looked down at myself and saw strange laced up boots and pants on my legs that I knew had never seen this century.

'How long have you been...' searching for me, I thought to ask, but the term didn't seem right. How do you search for a soul? How to you find the other half of yourself in a sea of millions of beings. 'How long have you been alone?'

He shuddered and wrapped me close, his head thrown back and resting against the wall. Vampires can't cry, I learned that night. Though you can see it when they try. 'It doesn't matter now. Nothing else matters now.'

'Heero?' I asked, not sure where to start, but he shook his head, suddenly seeming exhausted.

'Later, beloved,' he whispered. 'I'm sorry... but I must sleep.'

I blinked at him, unsure of the rules again. 'Is it... safe for you here?'

He smiled gently, already fading into a sleep that would end up scaring the shit out of me with its depth. 'As long as you're here with me.'

'No way in hell I'm going to be anywhere else for a very long time,' I told him, but I don't think he heard. Not that it mattered... I think he already knew.

End

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